In the land of Mac Nessa where epitaphs are written in blood, and nocturnal shadows flit freely in the cold moonlight, when the white hoar frost of winter’s breath blankets the big marsh, envelops the bracken and heather, coats the blackthorns in a slick sheen, clings to intricate webs as bejeweled wonders and the bleak, frozen bogs shiver and sleep, it’s then that the leaves curl and fall and all settles in for the long haul and dreams of the coming of springtime’s caress.

When the fat grouse and pheasant lie close to the ground and the field mouse burrows deep, when the hungry fox eagerly patrols his realm in search of an elusive morsel, and the hares’ coat turns white, when the stone walls and capstone boulders of the horned cairn feel icy to the human hand, and nothing grows and all is dead, it is then that the ancients wander unnoticed, unmolested and free, and their spirits once again embrace the land of their forefathers.

In the land that bred outlaws and saints, when the moon is full and cold as ice, they return and remember when it all began, back before time existed, before the ground was spoiled and cursed, back when the country was empty and free. When the stars are crisp points in the heavens and all is stark black and pure as new air, they journey throughout the land remembering. They climb the hill to the place where skilled hands dug the trench and formed the banks and cavern for safety, where the saplings would grow in a circle of protection in a future time, from up there they wait and watch.

In the distance the lough sparkles in an early morning’s watery sun and the river meanders through and leaves quietly on its never-ending journey, the island in reflection on the smooth surface will play it’s part in a later day and time. Far off on the eastern horizon the old volcano, now quiet, commands the area with an air of aloof benevolence, its’ slopes sweep down to the valley floor inviting the lost, the wayward and the hunted to stay awhile.

To the north along the great road sat Macha, the royal house, in safe assurance, the winter fires stoked and fueled, the animals housed in warm security, where its’ inhabitants slumbered in peaceful quiet. Ever watchful sentries patrolled the deep fosses and ditches along the perimeter and guarded the gates to the Fews. High on a hill, the witches white stone, inscribed with a long-forgotten language, casts a wary eye over the frontiers landscape, bounded by the bog on one side and the river on the other.

Here, Cal mor stole the livestock he was entrusted to take care of and ran for the wilds of Cooley crossing the river at Drummil. Here Mac Nessas’ ghost still fights alongside Cu Chullain in defence of the kingdom, from the marauders evil intent of destruction. Here the rapparees spirit still patrolls the roads and lanes from the headhunter’s bloodlust. They may be gone now, yet still their ghosts and the land remains, a reminder for all who will follow, an enduring symbol of rugged endurance and dogged survival.

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© John A. Brennan 2020. All Rights Reserved.


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